Socrates was one of the greatest Greek philosophers, who became embodiment of the ideal sage for the next generation, was sentenced to death by the Athenian authorities after a public trial. It all started with the fact that Melita, the Athenian poet, claimed that Socrates allegedly violated the law, trying to explore what's under the ground, and what is in the heavens, giving a lie for the truth, and teaching others the same. Socrates was accused of violating the piety, denying the gods recognized by the Athenians, and the introduction of new. These accusations were stated publicly. The hidden motives of the charge were that smart, sharp and ironic sayings of Socrates undermined Athenian slave-owning democracy. This was demonstrated by the vote in court. When the judges for the first time dealt with the issue of the guilt of Socrates only a small number of votes were cast against him. However, the second speech of Socrates on the measure of punishment, where Socrates discussed Athenian traditions and expressed no remorse, led judges to resentment. A majority of judges sentenced Socrates to death.
If we are to look closer at prosecution, it can be seen that it consisted of three items: impiety of Socrates, introducing some new deities, and corruption of the youth. On all these points Socrates was accused of a state crime, as the Athenian ideas of honoring the gods as well as the education of youth were treated as of a state significance. As to the third point - the charges regarding Socrates' corrupting the youth, it meant that Socrates suggested his own relationship to the gods in the course of conversations with his students. Secondly, "seduction" of young male students meant deviation from the path of democratic education, on which the Athenian polis was founded. In his defense speech Socrates logically built all his arguments. He claimed that it is impossible to prove that he corrupted the young people, for it would come out that he was the only one who did it, but, for example, the laws, the courts, or judges, the People's Assembly or his accuser himself never corrupted. Also, if he really corrupted youth it needed to be proved that this corruption was intentional. Unintentional corruption could not be prosecuted and could be terminated by private admonitions. Socrates also argued that is impossible to prove that he introduced a new deity, for his prosecutors accused him of impiety. If Socrates introduced a new deity, then he is certainly not an atheist. These arguments were quite logical and were understood by the prosecutors, however they could not afford that one philosopher can argue against the foundations of the polis, and, therefore, disregarded them.
The question is whether Socrates disrespected Athenian gods and created his own ones. I am deeply convinced that Socrates, being a true citizen of Athens, would never try to undermine the authority of gods as basis of the Athenian morality. Being a good citizen he dropped all his belongings and never aimed to be rich. His only desire was truth. He believed in gods and often used Zeus as one of the authorities when emphasizing on the truthfulness of his words. It seems obvious that Socrates never created his own gods contradicting to Athenian. However, his deity was mind. Socrates tried to show that people should not always rely on gods, as they can use their mind in search for truth. During the defense speech Socrates mentioned that he was like a “gadfly”. His desire for truth can be reviewed in the notion of this definition. Socrates is a true gadfly for the state, biting it with his words of truth and trying to make it think critically.
Another interesting moment in Socrates defense speech is that he never tried to escape Athenian justice. Socrates spoke in court not as the defendant, but as a mentor, urging his fellow citizens to appreciate the spiritual benefits above the material. He considered unworthy for himself and for the judges, but also for the honor of the city to beg the court for saving his life. For the same reason he did not try to bring along children, relatives and friends to soften the judges, although being aware of the impending danger. As a result, Socrates acquired the place, from which he could address to his citizens his thoughts. Socrates could simply escape court or pay fine for his deeds, but it would mean that he recognized his “mistakes”. Saving his life Socrates could lose his credibility as philosopher, which he couldn’t afford being a citizen. His true vocation was philosopher, which meant that he did not only teach polis citizens smart things, but applied the concepts developed to his own life. It was his vocation that guided Socrates through his life without money, home and household. These things were seen as unnecessary by Socrates and not helpful for teaching young generation philosophy. At this time citizens did not distinguish between sophists and philosophers that much. While sophists took money for teaching people oratory, philosophers searched for truth on a free of charge basis. Socrates’ defense speech showed true difference between sophists and philosophers in Athenian polis, which became possible after Socrates accepting death sentence.
Although Socrates’ apology has become a piece of classic philosophy, there are many arguments, which are still hidden from people’s eyes. In his defense speech Socrates limited the refutation of charges in atheism quite formally, however, he correctly pointed out the ambiguity of the concept of "lack of belief in gods." The Ancient Greece did not have dogmas. Mythology created a realistic world of gods, which could be interpreted by all citizens differently. This argument leads us to modern religious issues, when discussion on the role of God in people’s lives is quite actual. According to Socrates’ vision of this issue, each person can interpret religious sphere in his own way to facilitate spiritual existence. Therefore, his apology has practical application even in up-to-date life. The last point need to be stressed is the method Socrates used in developing his arguments. Nowadays it is widely known as Socratic method. It is based on the idea that truth can be found only in a dialogue. Asking his questions to opponents Socrates leads the opponent to the truth. This method is widely applicable today in teaching, which makes Socrates an excellent pedagogue not only of his era, but of modern also.
The position from which Socrates delivered his arguments is a position of a citizen who loves his polis. Socrates’ defense is based on moral values of Athenian polis. All charges being addressed during the hearing were based on Socrates’ theory’s incompatibility with corrupted Athenian democracy. Socrates accepted death as the only means to save his belief in a good moral citizen. Only death made his words more weighty and inspired his students to develop his thoughts.